By: Rebecca Herman
Shady Valley is well known for its beautiful landscape, sprawling farms, and cranberry bogs. Within Shady Valley, there are several preserves that are owned by The Nature Conservancy whose goal is to maintain and protect the bogs and endangered bog turtles. In March of 1997, The Nature Conservancy enlisted Charles McQueen to officially become the Preserves manager and 20 years later McQueen is still working diligently.
“Over the past 20 years, he has been instrumental in the restoration of our orchard bog and quarry bog preserves (home to endangered bog turtles), building the boardwalk at Schoolyard Springs and doing a thousand and one things to maintain all four preserves,” said Paul Kingsbury, Director of Communications at Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
In addition to being the Preserves manager, McQueen works on his family farm, owns a farm equipment business, and is the fire chief of the Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department. McQueen’s family had taken care of some of the land before he officially was hired by The Nature Conservancy, but it was not until after he was hired that he was able to really get down to work.
“Through the years land has been donated to us, so we have more area to maintain,” said McQueen. The bulk of what McQueen does deals with keeping the lands clear of invasive plants that could put the cranberry bogs and bog turtles at risk. “We do prescribed burns, we do selective logging, and we rotate livestock to keep the grounds clear.” McQueen has been able to travel around the United States with The Nature Conservancy to help other people with prescribed burns.
“We work closely with neighbors and the community and they are supportive of what we are doing here,” said McQueen. McQueen said that he tries to lease out the land to different people to keep the land working and that there are a couple cabins on property that they rent out to hunters. “We have the old farmhouse and a log cabin that we just added a bathhouse to,” said McQueen. The Preserve also has many trails for the public to use and groups can tour the bogs throughout the year.
“We also have had several students from different universities come to work. It’s really interesting to see some of these kids who have never been in the county before and to see how much they enjoy this area,” McQueen said. They have worked with universities in Illinois, New Hampshire, and have had students from all over the United States and one from abroad.
McQueen told of one student who was intrigued by the county cooking, in particular some ground cherry preserves. “She had never heard of them, and she loved them so much that we sent a jar of them home with her,” he said. The educational aspect of running the Preserves really highlights McQueen’s talents. McQueen gives tours of the Preserves and loves interacting with students from all different backgrounds.
McQueen said that he plans to continue being the Preserves Manager, “as long as my health holds out and as long as they’ll have me.”